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Film / missing. (1982)

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Missing (stylized onscreen as missing.) is a 1982 drama film directed by Costa-Gavras, starring Jack Lemmon and Sissy Spacek, with a soundtrack by Vangelis. It depicts the 1973 overthrow of Chilean President Salvador Allende's democratically-elected government by Augusto Pinochet's far-right military junta, and its bloody aftermath.

Journalist Charlie Horman (John Shea) and his wife Beth (Spacek) are a young American couple who have settled in Chile. They find themselves caught up in the country's political situation but, confident in their status as expatriate U.S. citizens, don't expect anything to happen to them. This hope turns out to be misplaced when Charlie goes missing. Seeking to find out what happened to him, Beth gets in touch with Charlie's businessman father, Ed (Lemmon), who comes over to assist her. Although they initially find it difficult to get along due to generational and ideological differences, their investigation draws them closer, as they discover that Charlie was "disappeared" by the junta because he had accidentally overheard sensitive information about the CIA's involvement in the coup.

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Contains examples of:

  • Anachronic Order: The investigation is interspersed with flash-backs.
  • Anachronism Stew: Although the film is set in 1973, several late 1970s/early 1980s automobiles are visible in certain scenes. Furthermore, Ed is shown arriving in Chile on a Pan Am DC-10, even though the airline did not acquire that particular aircraft until 1980.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Because of the situation mentioned under California Doubling, some of the regional details are a bit off, such as the characters' dialects (see Misplaced Accent), the vehicles, and local landmarks.
  • Banana Republic: It's never explicitly mentioned that the story takes place in Chile, but the references are obvious enough.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: When Frank and David are taken by the soldiers and brought to the stadium, David starts to panic, and Frank tries to calm him down by saying he can't take David anywhere, and next time he gets arrested, he's leaving David behind.
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  • Character Development: Charlie's father transforms from annoyed, conservative American businessman to someone who gains greater respect for his daughter-in-law and son, and disgust with his government's lies and squalid complicity in Chile's brutal repressive policies.
  • Downer Ending/Harsher in Hindsight: Charlie is confirmed dead, and Ed unsuccessfully attempts to sue the US government for their complicity in his son's death. To this day, the State Department denies any involvement in the 1973 Chilean coup. Worse, years after the film's release, with the advent of advanced DNA testing, it was determined that the body shipped back to the United States (as seen in the film's final image) was not that of Charles Horman.
  • Eagleland: The US government is implied to be complicit in the military coup. Truth in Television.
  • The Film of the Book: Adapted from Thomas Hauser's 1978 nonfiction book The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog:
    Captain Tower: I'm having dinner with the, uh, junta's chief of staff, Admiral Huidobro.
    Beth: God. That one again? Haven't you seen him yet?
    Captain Tower: These people are very busy right now.
  • Kick the Dog: When Ed confronts the U.S Embassy regarding his son, they tell him through an analogy that he brought everything on himself.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: The film's main theme, composed and performed by Vangelis. It has been extensively re-used in advertisements.
  • Misplaced Accent: When the movie was made (1981), Chile was still under Pinochet's dictatorship, so it was filmed in Mexico using Mexican actors (mainly) and extras. Because of that, the Spanish in the movie sounds nothing like Chilean Spanish.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The personnel of the American embassy.
  • Papa Wolf: Charlie's father Ed shows this when he finds out just how oppressive the regime is, that the United States government was complicit, and the possibility his son could have been tortured and killed. He's constantly searching with Beth. Towards the end of the film, he tells off an official and sues the government.
  • Precision F-Strike: Though Ed is a Christian scientist, and tries to watch his language, he reaches his Rage-Breaking Point while in a cab with Beth - after the Obstructive Bureaucrat types he's met and the chaos in the country - and says, "I am very tired of this...SHIT!"
  • Stay in the Kitchen: After the regime starts, some soldiers harass Charlie's and Beth's female friend for wearing pants as women in their country wear dresses.
  • Tempting Fate: Frank bets David they'll get sent home by the soldiers as early as next morning. That was the last time David saw Frank alive, as he was killed when the soldiers took him away.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: When Ed tells Beth how Charles, as a kid, used to throw things in the water in Cape Cod when their family used to spend vacations there (Beth smiles and admits Charles did the same thing as a grownup), Beth responds, "I wonder how things are up in Old Cape Cod", and starts humming the song.
  • Too Much Information: Ed asks Beth what Charlie was like. When she gets to how much of a sex maniac Charlie was, however, Ed says he doesn't want to hear any more.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Beth and Charlie's father get several contradicting versions of the same events, and every time the recalled scene is altered accordingly.

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